News story

F-35 Lightning II jet to make maiden British flight

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The combat aircraft will fly in Britain for the first time this summer at 2 airshows.

The F-35 Lightning II will make its international debut in July at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford and in the same month will also fly at the Farnborough International Air Show.

This will be the first time the combat aircraft has flown outside of the United States. The selection of 2 UK airshows demonstrates the significant role that Britain has in the programme. Approximately 15% of every aircraft is built in the UK.

The UK's first F-35 Lightning II
The UK's first F-35 Lightning II during a test flight (library image) [Picture: Courtesy of Lockheed Martin]

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

The US and the UK have worked closely together on the F-35 project from the beginning. We are the only country that is a Level 1 partner in the project, which is sustaining tens of thousands of jobs in the UK.

This fifth generation stealth combat aircraft will be a major boost to British combat air power and it is entirely fitting that the F-35’s first stop outside the United States will be in the UK.

The MOD has 3 aircraft which are all currently based in the US undertaking training with Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots. Orders for further aircraft will be placed over the next few years.

The UK’s first operational Lightning II squadron, 617 Squadron, is scheduled to transition to RAF Marham in Norfolk from the US in 2018 ahead of flight trials of the Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier later that year.

An F-35B Lightning II taking off from the USS Wasp
An F-35 Lightning II takes off from the USS Wasp (library image) [Picture: Todd R McQueen, Lockheed Martin]

The F-35 Lightning II will be capable of undertaking a wide range of operations from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to high intensity combat, including air defence for a Carrier Task Group and offensive support for ground forces.

The Royal International Air Tattoo is open to the public from 11-13 July and Farnborough International Air Show is open to trade visitors from 14-18 July and open to the public 19-20 July.